A silly attempt to erase Israel from a local children’s production in New Zealand exploded into an international incident.
Famed lyricist Tim Rice slammed local officials in Wellington, New Zealand, who censored the word “Israel” in a children’s production of the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Children were preparing for a production of the play for the Artsplash Festival, the largest student arts festival in the city, when they were told to change the lyrics in the song “Close Every Door,” from “Children of Israel” to “Children of kindness.”
Kate Dowling posted the edited song sheet on Twitter last week, writing, “Why opt to do a Jewish-themed song, then remove the Jewish-themed lyric?”
She asked if the organizers had Rice’s permission to make the change.
Rice replied on Twitter that the change was “totally unauthorized” and a “terribly drippy and meaningless alteration,” and said he would be in contact with Artsplash.
“Please explain Joseph lyric change. Permission not given,” he tweeted.
In response, the local officials cancelled all three Joseph songs featured in the event.
Upset parents began pulling their kids from the event, and a public outcry ensued. The organizers were forced to reinstate the three songs to the program with the original lyrics.
“Either don’t do the show or do all of it as written,” Rice tweeted angrily.
The Wellington City Council tweeted in response that “we’ve told the organizers that the original songs must go back in the program. This will happen!” and apologized for the ridiculous incident.
Failed Attempt to Censor Jewish History
Mary Prichard, the coordinator of Artsplash, claimed the offensive act was an “unintentional and innocent error.”
“The person concerned, and myself for that matter, are religious people and would never consider intentionally doing anything racist or anti any religion,” she told The Jerusalem Post.
However, according to New Zealand’s Stuff news website, Prichard initially claimed that the organizers made the decision to remove the word “Israel” to “keep life simple” for the schoolchildren. She then said they would remove the songs entirely, because “It’s not worth looking for trouble.”
The local Jewish community was disturbed by this incident.
David Zwartz, of the Wellington Regional Jewish Council, told the local J-Wire news that “as we see it, the ‘trouble’ Mary Prichard refers to is an attempt to censor without explanation an event in Jewish history that took place about three-and-a-half thousand years ago.”
“It is wrong to indicate to primary school children that something in the Jewish Torah – also included in the Christian Old Testament, and the Koran – needs to be altered, or avoided altogether,” Zwartz stated.
“Far better to teach the children, and their parents, that each religion’s historical background is something to be treated respectfully, not censored or banned. As a Wellingtonian, I don’t want our city to be branded as a place that refused to perform this popular adaptation of Jewish history,” he added.